Reflective teaching is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking that leads to professional growth. It helps faculty gradually reach teaching goals and improve student learning. When faculty engage in reflective teaching, they dedicate time to consider their assumptions and biases, evaluate their own teaching practice, examine curricular choices, consider student feedback, and make revisions to improve student belonging and learning. This process requires information gathering, data interpretation, and planning for the future.
Reflective teaching involves examining one’s underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and one’s alignment with actual classroom practice before, during and after a course is taught.
For this reason, all faculty should maintain a reflection journal.
Brookfield (2017) lays out four crucial sources for information about one's teaching: “students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, personal experience, and theory and research.” A reflection journal is essential to recording personal experience and personal reflection. Faculty should gather additional information from observations, student evaluations, and research on social justice and learning. Because each semester’s or term's students and their needs are different, reflective teaching is a continual practice that supports effective, socially just, inclusive teaching.
Explore the reflective tools below. In addition to maintaining a reflection journal, consider two others you will adapt this term:
This private activity requires discipline and structure to document areas of growth, challenge and celebration. Faculty should systematically record their responses to questions listed below. Questions about identity encourage quarterly responses while teaching activities should be answered weekly.
Teaching inventories help instructors assess and think more broadly about their teaching approaches.
Review the tools below and adapt for your use.
Teaching portfolios require faculty to describe and carefully reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching. They generally open with a teaching philosophy or statement that is supported by diverse pieces of evidence of effectiveness and development. Portfolios are required for rank and promotion; however, on-going building and creation of portfolios encourage systematic reflection and guide professional growth. It is wise to begin collecting information early, reviewing older entries, taking notes on them, and storing new additions regularly.
A teaching portfolio could include all of the elements listed below.
Observations and specific, high-quality feedback play an important role in fostering reflective teaching practice and improving instruction. Observations can contribute to a picture of teaching over time and help identify specific areas for professional growth.
Faculty can request a non-evaluative observation from a trusted colleague or from Cheryl Richardson, Director of Inclusive Teaching Excellence. In both cases, parties should meet before the observation to agree on goals for observation, discuss an observation protocol, and schedule a day to provide verbal and written feedback.
Consider using an observation protocol to help focus on teaching practices and promote reflection. Below is a suggested, loosely structured protocol that is relevant to Adler University's values.
Students can provide information about what they observe in the classroom, and they can evaluate their abilities to learn in your class. They can help faculty understand how inclusive the classroom environment may be, determine whether a particular strategy is working, understand the effectiveness of a particular discussion, or if changes in the direction of a course is warranted.
The minute paper is a formative assessment strategy whereby students are asked to take one minute (or more) to answer two questions: what was the most important thing they learned in class today; and what still remains unclear to them. This helps faculty get a feel for whether students captured the most important points, and to know which areas need further expansion.
Collecting mid-semester feedback from students enables faculty to consider teaching adjustments specific to the particular needs of current class(es). Comments from students provide opportunities for instructors to clarify confusion and justify pedagogical choices. Feedback also invites students to reflect on their learning experiences and reminds students of course goals and values. The act of collecting feedback demonstrates that an instructor values student voice and experience. Consider asking the questions below and sharing aggregate results and planned adjustments as soon as possible.
In a small group feedback session (SGFS), a trained observer visits class and conducts a group discussion alone with students during the last 15-20 minutes of class. They ask questions similar to those asked in the mid-term feedback session, but it can happen at any time, and students hear and share their ideas with each other. The observer then discusses the student feedback with the instructor.
End-of-term course surveys are administered by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and is provided to students toward the end of every term. Data from these surveys are shared with department and program heads, included in rank and promotion decisions, and can be used for improving courses when offered again.